BITS-Pilani: Dilip says that when BITS-Pilani introduced entrance exams in 2004, women's enrollment dropped precipitously. He adds, "This drop is of serious concern to BITS authorities, who I believe are examining (among other things) if the test itself has or encourages gender bias." [Dilip also brought it up in a comment to this post last year!] On Vivek's blog, Tobacconist says something similar about his college, which appears to be BITS-Pilani.
NITs: At NIT-C, this comment indicates that women/men ratio was less than 10 percent even in computer science. I got similar figures for NIT-K (Suratkal) from one of our students, who's from there. Remember, computer science and electronics engineering are the fields in which women form over 30 percent of the students. So, these numbers for NIT-C and NIT-K are pretty low.
Here's a hypothesis that's worth testing: if it turns out that women's underrepresentation exists in top colleges (irrespective of whether they are IITs, NITs or university engineering colleges), it would imply that all "multiple-choice" based entrance exams (not just the JEE) do a good job of keeping women out of the top ranks.
Why am I interested in testing this hypothesis? Because I read this post by Tipsy Toes, and this comment by N!, discussing some very interesting findings from psychological and psycho-legal studies of how men and women handle tests.
Here's a relevant part from Tipsy Toes' post:
... [William C.] Kidder actually identifies four sources of exam bias: stereotype threat, speededness and differential guessing, the gendered effects of subject matter selection and biased questions.
Isn’t it time we examine our entrance exams in relation to these, and figure out whether they’re biased? As Vivek pointed out very effectively, we have ‘missing women’ in science, and there are many many many social biases that have led to this. But that is no reason to assume that our exam papers themselves are not tainted by these biases. [...]
And, here is a short quote from the comment by N!:
To the extent that the JEE is the most difficult math exam and to the extent that it tests new material, to the extent that the communication might be that the JEE currently might be more about "innate ability" rather than "hard work" and to the extent that women might be less confident abotu their chances of success even at the same math performance as men, any test like the JEE might be biased.
Before proceeding further with this line of inquiry, we need more data on computer science and electronics engineering programs in NITs (programs of choice for top rankers in AIEEE), and similar programs in top colleges in state universities (which, again, are the programs of choice for top rankers in state-level entrance exams). Any pointers to sources of data will be greatly appreciated.
I'll offer the usual reward: a drink when you are in Bangalore next!